Archives for posts with tag: Elseworlds

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For trade readers, April has seen a lot of action along the fringes of the Superman meta-narrative. Elseworlds, alternate Earths, alternate timelines, clones, and adaptations- we live in a time of many Supermen. I’ve written previously on how Batman is preparing us for travel through the multiverse and today I’m going to discuss how Superman’s multiple existences in the multiverse allow us to confront and cope with some of our fears- or rather, just one fear: evil Superman. (bad Superman?)

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This month saw the publication of three trades that deal with an alternate Superman and each of these alternate Superman are more evil than the Superman archetype. Each of these titles stand among some of the best DC is publishing- compelling stories that twist the Man of Steel into a reflection of the terrors associated with absolute power and nigh-invulnerability.

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In Earth-2 Vol. 5: The Kryptonian, a Superman under the control of Darkseid has come to post-Apokolips Earth-2 to bring about a revival of Apokoliptian terror. The fear that our greatest heroes will come under the power of tyrants is not an irrational fear and Earth-2 is full of deceitful authorities coming from all angles.

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The heroes of Earth-2, including a Red Tornado Lois Lane, attempt to use Clark’s adopted parents Jonathan and Martha Kent to bring Superman to his senses. This strategy is common when trying to calm Superman down. It seems very natural to us because we believe that humanity is what makes Superman good which is all sorts of problematic, but it comforts us to think that our way of life could keep a god from doing terrible things, which is odd in itself as many comfort themselves by worshiping a god that does in fact do terrible things and swear allegiance to an employer who might not care if they live or die.

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In Justice League 3000, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Batman have been resurrected alongside Superman in a morally questionable experiment completed by the Wonder Twins in the distant future.

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These Wonder Twins differ greatly from the original Wonder Twins and that can be said for all of the members of the Justice League. Of these not-exactly-cloned clones, Superman falls the shortest of his legacy.

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Here, Superman is a sex-crazed blood-thirsty idiot who keeps forgetting that he no longer has the power to fly. This depiction of an imbecilic Superman preys upon the same fear that perpetuates the dumb jock stereotype and inspired so much protest against George W. Bush’s presidency. We are afraid of the stupid and the powerful. Being powerless in the face of mediocrity can feel worse than being powerless in the face of brilliance- here, there is no respect for the fool leading you, no hope.

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In Injustice: Gods Among Us Year Two, the story of a Superman driven to vengeful murder and then obsessive fascism continues as more and more DC Comics characters try to make sense of this totalitarian Last Son of Krypton. I’ve really enjoyed Injustice. When it first came out, I avoided it because I didn’t want to read a comic book based on a video game, but when I heard Mike Miller, one of the artists, speak about it at Dragon Con (and then subsequently found a copy of the first trade for $5), I decided to pick it up. Immediately I was impressed at how well Tom Taylor grasped the characters. I should mentioned that Tom Taylor wrote about this fascist Superman and also wrote the Earth-2 Darkseid-controlled Superman. Maybe he has an irrational fear of Superman and his therapist suggested he work through those issues by bringing his fears to their absurd conclusion. In Year One, Superman ended war. In Year Two, Superman must figure out a way to keep the peace. To do so, he needs an army and Lex Luthor has developed a pill that will allow normal humans to rock and roll all night while simultaneously partying every day. The pill even let Alfred beat up Superman.

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Superman’s motivation towards absolute rule comes from the Joker tricking him into killing Lois Lane, their unborn child, and the entire city of Metropolis. Superman just wants to keep everybody safe. This motivation creates a very different totalitarian Superman than the classic Red Son where Superman’s drive towards a one-world government-dictatorship is more philosophical than emotional. All these stories of Superman going over the edge really make me want to reread Red Son. In both cases, Batman is there to oppose him. In Earth-2 and Justice League 3000, alternate Batmans prove to be the voice of reason in the face of a radically imperfect Superman.

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All of this evil Superman stuff just off the heels of Forever Evil, a storyline than spanned nearly the entire New 52 universe and featured Ultraman, the Crime Syndicate’s answer to Superman, as one of its main villains.

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As well as Superman works as a metaphor for absolute good, he also works quite well as a metaphor for absolute evil.

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comcigiftguide2014

As the holiday season approaches, I thought I’d lend my expertise to those gift-givers out there with comic book fans of varying levels on their shopping list. Unlike a lot of the comic book gift guides I’ve seen around the web, this list is strictly books to be read- no etsy crafts, no action figures, no lingerie, no DVDs- just graphic novels and collected editions.

This list is set up to help you give the perfect gift, but giving the perfect gift involves two parties: the giver and the receiver. This list focuses on the receiver, but the true treasure of the gift should be that it came from you. (Actually that’s not entirely true: giving the perfect gift involves three parties: the giver, the receiver, and the producer of the gift- which is why independent comics make especially good gifts! Most items on this list, however, are not independents.)

Right now the comic book world is filled with comic book fans who have actually read very few comics. They may avidly watch TV shows, wear T-shirts, and rush to the movies, but they’ve had little contact with the source material.

CLASSICS: There are a few comics that critics insist belong in everyone’s collection. These can be dangerous gift purchases as these titles are pretty popular and may appear in even the mildest comic book fan. These books include works by Alan Moore (Watchmen; V for Vendetta; League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Killing Joke), works by Frank Miller (Batman Year One; The Dark Knight Returns; Sin City), and works by Grant Morrison (Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth; The Invisibles). These books are all well and good, but they’re pretty old and their iconic status means they might be in the person’s collection already. Another thing these books all have in common is that they’re not appropriate for young children. My advice is steer clear of these titles as gifts even though they’re all pretty great reads.

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE VIDEO GAMES: A lot of superhero video games are based on movies and those games are largely terrible. Some of the Spiderman games are good as is LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, but largely Marvel games have been duds. I can’t speak to the Disney Infinity stuff because I haven’t played it. Games based on DC properties have proven somewhat better- I’m a particular fan of the under-rated Batman: The Brave and The Bold, but the obvious ones are the Batman Arkham-verse games and Injustice: Gods Among Us. If you know that the person on your list loves playing the Arkham-verse games, I highly recommend the accompanying graphics novels (Batman: Arkham Asylum-The Road to Arkham; Batman: Arkham City; Batman: Arkham Unhinged; Batman: Arkham City-End Game; and Batman: Arkham Origins). While those books are good, the books that accompany Injustice: Gods Among Us are amazing. The collection hardcovers are also beautifully printed.

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE THE FLASH TV SHOW: The Flash can be an overwhelming character and Grant Gustin’s Flash on the show doesn’t exactly fit with any specific Flash story. The main storyline of the television show has been the murder of Barry Allen’s mother and some ambiguous Reverse Flash foreshadowing. The best Reverse Flash story is probably Flashpoint, but it comes with a lot of baggage that might be frustrating for the newcomer. To truly do Flashpoint justice, one should probably start with Flash: Rebirth (the return of Barry Allen) and then read The Flash Vol. 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues!, followed by The Flash Vol. 2: The Road to Flashpoint. After reading those three volumes, your Flash fan should be more than prepared to encounter Flashpoint, but to get the most of that story, they’ll want the accompanying World of Flashpoint collections. They don’t need to read every WoF story, so you might want to pick one that speaks most to your relationship or particular interest of the giver. I do recommend that you at least give a couple of World of Flashpoint The Flash along with the Flashpoint graphic novel. Below is a list of the collections that I’ve ranked based on personal preference:

1) World of Flashpoint Batman

2) World of Flashpoint Wonder Woman

3) World of Flashpoint Superman

4) World of Flashpoint Featuring Green Lantern

The truly generous Flashpoint gift set would include a total of 9 books and that can be pretty expensive, so you may want to get this Flash fan started on the New 52- start with The Flash Vol. 1: Move Forward.

Good indie option for Flash fans? The Manhattan Projects

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKED SMALLVILLE: The obvious choice here would be to further the Smallville universe in the Smallville Season 11 series. If you want to provide them with a Superman story that evokes the same emotions as Smallville, I’d recommend Superman: Birthright or even Kurt Busiek’s Elseworlds story Superman: Secret Identity. One nice thing about both of these Superman books is that they don’t require the reader to have too much background knowledge and are self-contained stories.

Indie option? Invincible

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKED MAN OF STEEL: Man of Steel centered largely around Kryptonian concerns, which can really be hit-or-miss in the comics and enjoyment depends largely on how the reader imagines Krypton themselves. Good Kryptonian reads include: Last Stand of New Krypton; Krypton Returns; H’el on Earth; Last Son of Krypton; and a lot of Supergirl stories. Another good choice that contains a lot of elements of Kryptonian lore, but takes place largely on Earth (and the Phantom Zone) is Superman for Tomorrow- great writing and great art.

Indie option? the rebooted X-O Manowar

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WITH REFINED TASTES WHO LIKE SUPERMAN: Personally, my favorite Superman stuff strays from the beaten path a bit. Considers these gift sets:

SUPERMAN + COLD WAR: Red Son asks what if Superman landed in the Soviet Union instead of the United States. The New Frontier posits Superman and other DC heroes in a 1950s atmosphere of McCarthyism, arms and space races, and a changing American dream.

SUPERMAN+FINE ART: Batman/Superman Vol. 1: Cross World and Vol 2: Game Over feature some of the dreamiest superhero art you find by master Jae Lee. Likewise Alex Ross has made significant contributions to raising the bar of superhero art with works like: Kingdom Come; Justice; and one of my personal favorites and a book that truly captures the Christmas spirit is The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, which unfortunately is out of print. If you can track down that last one, you might be a comics reader hero.

SUPERMAN+FREAKOUT!: Sometimes Superman gets downright psychedelic as authors let their freak flags fly. This is especially true whenever Grant Morrison gets his hands on the Man of Steel. The first three volumes of Morrison’s run on Action Comics (New 52) would make a mind-bending gift for your Superman fan or his All-Star Superman if you only feel like giving a single book. Many Superman Elseworlds stories like The Nail, Metropolis, Kal, and those I’ve already mentioned (Kingdom Come, Red Son, Secret Identity) all challenge the reader to expand their understanding of the last son of Krypton.

COMICS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE THE GOTHAM TV SHOW: Gotham Central was a series by Brubaker and Rukka that focused more on the cops than the bats in Gotham City. Without this comic, there might not have been a Gotham TV show.

The recently released first volume of Batman Eternal is a great Jim Gordon-centered drama. It’s big and fat and wonderful.

COMICS FOR BATMAN FANS WHO FEAR THE NEW WORLD ORDER: The Court of Owls and The Night of Owls are Batman books from the New 52 that introduce an Illuminati Golden Dawn Skulls Freemason Rotary Club called the Court of Owls. Scott Snyder’s writing and Greg Capullo’s art are the current Batman standard. These books are complimented by the New 52 titles: Nightwing, Talon, All-Star Western, and Birds of Prey and to a lesser extent, Detective Comics, Batwing, and Catwoman.

That’s a good start to flood a comic fans stocking with a bunch of comics starring white male heroes, but trust me- there are many great books out there that don’t focus solely on muscular white dudes getting their science fiction on!  If I have time, I’ll try to post some on those as well as suggestions for fans of the Constantine show in the next installment of the World’s Second Greatest Detective’s 2014 Comic Book Gift Guide.

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With LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham coming out in the US in just a few days (November 11, 2014), I picked up its Bizarro version LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. As longtime readers of this blog know, I am much more a DC Comics fan than a Marvel Comics fan, which speaks more to my fondness for DC properties than for any love lost between Marvel and I. If I had all the time and money in the world, I’d probably read Marvel Comics too…and I’d probably read them while traveling the world by boat and train. However my clock and pocketbook have limits, so I’m a Marvel fan like the majority of Marvel fans- I’ve seen the movies and I watch Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD every week. I also dabble in the Marvel video games, which, like most comic book video games, are hit and miss. Captain America: Super Soldier? Hit. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer? Miss, but Silver Surfer serves a central role in the LEGO game and it works really well.

I’m a believer that certain superheroes produce better video games than others because of their powers. Because of the limitations for characters like Batman and Captain America, they make for better games than more powerful heroes with more complicated power sets like Superman and Green Lantern. Flying characters bring their own problems and their success lies in the gameplay- is it easy to control Iron Man’s suit? how fluid is Spidey’s swinging? Wolverine is a unique character because of his famous healing factor. Characters with hyper-developed mental abilities like Jean Grey and Professor X (or Maxwell Lord and Hector Hammond, if you like) also present challenges for video game platforms. How do your remotely control a metahuman brain with less than ten buttons and your meager human brain? Other characters with power sets that overwhelm almost any situation like Magneto or the Sentinels require the player to forgive a necessary weakening of the character in order to make them playable.

In the case of Magneto, LEGO lucks out as LEGOs are not magnetic, making a LEGOverse a severe handicap to Magneto. The LEGO approach to superhero gaming actually works incredibly well and not just for Magneto. Some characters suffer, but their suffering is presented in a way that 1) recognizes its limitations and 2) tries to soften it up with humor. Two particular characters come to mind. In the DC universe, we find Green Lantern being able to assemble a few green legos that no one else can assemble and while that’s a far cry from being able to create unlimited light constructs, LEGO makes reference to the classic Highball Hal Jordan’s repertoire by having him build boxing gloves and bowling balls. In the Marvel universe, Mr. Fantastic is only able to take advantage of his stretchiness when certain triggers in the game allow it. When standing on a 4 platform, he turns into situation specific shapes- something I imagine we can expect from Plastic Man in the LEGO Batman 3– and most of them are humorous. Similar he can slip through grates as long they’ve been clearly marked as passable grates.

Humor is a huge element in the LEGO games and LEGO Marvel really brings it. All of the LEGO games have the player building ridiculous things for ridiculous reasons. Because LEGO has chosen such content rich franchises as Star Wars and Harry Potter, they’ve been able to integrate into their games many in-jokes for fans of those franchises. While the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Indiana Jones franchises have a great deal of content to draw from, those franchises pale in comparison to either Marvel or DC in terms of source material. Even as a modest Marvel I was able to pick up on many of the game’s jokes such as Stan Lee drinking a contaminated soda a la The Incredible Hulk. Being only a Marvel novice, I’m sure I missed plenty of winks, giggles, and Easter Eggs. Several characters appear in the game that I don’t recognize and I think that’s great. I hope hardcore Marvel fans really appreciate all the little details put into the game. As a hardcore DC fan, I’m expecting a sophisticated awesomeness from LEGO Batman 3 and the pre-release hype has got me pretty excited. Some of my favorite more obscure characters have already appeared in promotional materials- Frankenstein, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing, and so many Lanterns including my two favorite Red Lanterns Bleez and Dex-Starr. You’ll also be able to play as real like folks like Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Kevin Smith, and Adam West- maybe in the fourth installment you’ll be able to play as a real-life woman. Maybe the adorably rad Tiffany Smith from DC All Access or iconic refrigerator inspector Gail Simone.

In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, you can wear lots of Iron Man’s suits including the original, War Machine, Iron Patriot, and even Pepper Pots. Costumes from different points in the lives of the Fantastic Four, Spider-man, and certain X-Men are available. You can even choose between the Mandarin from the comics and the Mandarin from Iron Man 3. With LEGO Batman 3, the creators actually have less cinema to draw from than the Marvel folks, but they have a longer comics history, an expanding television universe, and a long string of brilliant Elseworlds tales to draw from.

In signing off, let me just mention that Batman: The Brave and the Bold is an underrated console game.  I’m bummed Arkham Knight isn’t coming to Wii U. I want to see Cheetah in Injustice 2, I’m really enjoying the Injustice comics, and I don’t understand why the Mortal Kombat series have to be in the Injustice games at all. I don’t know how I feel about having a Joker in the Suicide Squad movie, but then again, I don’t how I’d feel about a Suicide Squad movie without Harley Quinn. The whole thing just tears me apart like a string of LEGO blocks.

 

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One day our consciousnesses or rather those of our descendants will be able to perceive the multi-verse, defy space and time, and engage in a logic beyond the childish way you and I have been thinking. As our cells ready the coming mutations and our technologies reflect our peculiar ambitions, we grasp for examples that can anchor us in the blurred existential hurricane that is surely multi-versal living. One Virgil to our Dante in this exciting stage of development is the Batman. We are living in an age where people are living in multiple Batman universes. A noticeable portion of the world population coexists with multiple Batmans. While Batman is not unique in this and certainly not among other comic heroes, Batman is special. His multiple universes are more fully developed than any other superhero.

Look at some of the universes that continue to expand:

New 52 Batman (This universe is the same (sort of) as the Justice League War animated movie universe, but not necessarily the Son of Batman animated movie universe. Batman of the New 52 is complicated because he and Green Lantern have a lot more history than Superman and other heroes, making this particular universe great exercise for our evolving brains. All of which has been twisted even more strangely with the all whole Zero Year timing and whatever Jonah Hex and Dr. Arkham get into in the past. Of all the characters in the New 52, Batman holds the distinction of appearing in the most titles with no serious competition for the honor. At any given time, well over 10 creators at DC Comics are working on Batman stories.)

New 52 Batman Earth-2 (where he is notably the father of Huntress/Robin)

Lil Gotham (Here we find familiar characters celebrating familiar holidays)

Batman ’66 (A reflection of the old Batman TV Show universe, itself a reflection of the Silver Age Batman universe and the Warholian utopia/dystopia of the Swinging Sixties- it’s not inception, it’s not an Alanis Morrissette song, it’s more like Medeski Martin & Wood playing their own arrangement of an American jazz song about French people impersonating Chinese porcelain work)

Batman Earth One (Remember this gem from a few years ago? Will there be a Volume 2?)

Injustice (The storyline constitutes multiple universes itself and features multiple Batmans)

Batman Arkham (This universe has its fair share of continuity problems, especially when it dabbled in the prequel arts with Arkham Origins)

Zack Snyder Universe (where the Dark Knight is portrayed by the kid on Voyage of the Mimi)

LEGO Batman (and arguably LEGO Movie Batman is a separate universe; the missus and I recently assembled a LEGO batmobile tumbler, the ride from the Nolanverse, which would be a separate universe from the LEGO Batman universe as it exists in most of the sets, the video games, and the LEGO Batman movie (and, again, the LEGO Movie))

The upcoming Gotham TV series (This universe, much like other universes, rearranges chronology without causing major rifts to meaning. This phenomenon is one of the more popular Elseworlds literary devices- it relies on the familiar to give its new universe strength and recognizes time as a variable, not a constant.)

DCU Online/Infinite Crisis (The online playable universes of the DC multi-verse are (or have the potential to be) some of the highest functioning universes outside of the metanarrative (and what, dear readers, is the Batman metanarrative?))

JL8 (Yale Stewart’s charming running comic of Justice League members as kids is one of many amazing fan-created universes out there. Don’t we all have our own Batman universes that we’ve created? When kids play with Batman toys, they create narratives and become architects of our practice multiverse. Also there’s a bit of perverted Bat-fiction, even pornographic productions of the highest quality. I think Lexi Belle makes a more convincing batgirl than Sunny Lane, but it’s amazing that the modern Batman reader even has a choice in selecting their adult film Barbara Gordon.)

Meanwhile, many Batman universes that we accept as being closed continue to remain alive in our consciousnesses:

The Nolanverse (A self-contained universe spanning three films, the Dark Knight trilogy has solidified itself as my generation’s  onscreen Batman, forcing me to face all the issues surrounding my own mortality as a new Batman, Batfleck, appears in the near future. A glitch in this universe transforms Batman’s love interest into a more talented actress between films.)

Batman: The Animated Series (Hardly the only time the Dark Knight has been animated, but one that resonates so strongly and featured the work of true legends like Marv Wolfman and Denny O’Neil. The show also introduced Harley Quinn who quickly transuniversed across the multiverse into established Batman universes.)

The Dark Knight Returns universe (Frank Miller’s classic Elseworlds story had new life breathed into it with last year’s animated film. This story, closely tied to the zeitgeist (equal parts apathy and fascism) of the 1980s, continues to help readers, and now viewers, transport to a time when Batman was disappointed in both the hippies and the conservatives.)

Jeph Loeb has provided two separate Batman universes. With Tim Sale, he created the Long Halloween universe, which is not much of a departure from Frank Miller’s Year One universe. Later Loeb launches the Superman/Batman series, which brings Supergirl back to the DC universe in a form I believe far superior to the Supergirl that died back in Crisis on Infinite Earths- itself being a primer on balancing an overwhelming multi-verse with an accessible story (with varying degrees of success)

Year 100, DC One Million (Paul Pope and Grant Morrisson probably walk with each foot in a different universe at all times.)

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (This very short yet poignant set of mixed up eulogies for the Dark Knight delivered by his closest friends and enemies provides multiple alternate histories for the Dark Knight. One of the very few Batman stories that Neil Gaiman has written.)

This list could really go on and on as Batman has been featured in an overwhelming amount of material and a good chunk of that remains relevant to the modern Batman reader. When humanity is confronted with what will surely be the greatest existential crisis we will face collectively up to that point, I believe the modern Batman readers will have contributed to the evolutionary process that will enable our collective consciousness to navigate an open multiverse. Also net neutrality will prove to be even more important than even Tim Wu currently anticipates, but he deserves some credit too- not as much as Batman, but some.

 

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As its very essence, democracy is institutionalized civil war. This doesn’t simply apply to political states, but to wherever democracy flourishes and spirited debate ensues. Contesting for authenticity, for sovereignty, for status among the masses- this quest to be deemed legitimate by the standards of the arena compels the democratic imperative. Comic books are one of the most democratic artistic fields, largely because of its ties to the capitalist system. People buy more Animal Man than Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. so Frankenstein is cancelled and Animal Man lives on. Every comic book convention is a market research orgy for publishers. Consumers voluntarily mail, email, and blog their votes/marketing information to allow the producers easy access to their opinions. The democratic elements on the production side are quite similar to rap music- you don’t need much more than a pencil and some paper to get started. Comics, like political democracies, have established seats of power, factions, propaganda departments, dirty tricks, and giant fucking egos. Here I’d like to touch on a comic book icon that reminds me a little bit of the recording artist Prince, Alan Moore.

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Certain pop culture figures and moments in their public life can stay with you. Many of my first impressions of celebrity came from the actions of Prince Rogers Nelson a.k.a. Prince. I can clearly remember watching Weird Al Yankovic as a young child and hearing him explain that Prince refused to let me parody his songs, which may have been the first time I ever heard of Prince. One of the favorite Prince stories is the bit about how he demanded youtube remove a fan-shot recording of a live performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” that he had performed at Coachella and Thom Yorke, hearing of this, defended the fan and told youtube to unblock the recordings. Whatever your opinion of Prince, you must admit that a central component to his public persona is active paranoia regarding his music and his money. You could hate Prince for it and consider him a mega-crybaby,  but he deserves credit for committing to his own insanity.

With the release of the TPBs of the recent Before Watchmen series approaching, I’ve been thinking about comic book icon Alan Moore. Many consider Moore to be the greatest comic book writer of all time. Is it wise to criticize this legend so early in my foray into the medium? Well, it worked for Grant Morrisson. My problem is not so much with Moore’s work, which I really enjoy, but with his personality and contradictions in it as it relates to how his work is used.

Moore has been vocal in his protests of the film adaptation of Watchmen and the Before Watchmen series. He was also pretty vocal about the film adaptations of V for Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I sympathize with his commitment to the characters he “created.” Many fans align themselves loyally and somewhat blindly with Moore. Regarding the films, a lot of material was cut, changed,and thematically distorted. Of the three films, Watchmen is by far the most loyal to the source material, but Moore and fans alike have grumbled loudly about the film. I really enjoyed the V for Vendetta and Watchmen films and generally think it’s great when artists try to interpret other artists’ work- like Prince covering Radiohead’s “Creep,” for example. I enjoy mash-ups, film adaptations, fan art, plays, homages, cosplay, and other instances where people contribute the larger essence of a work, giving it new life and killing the author is Barthesian fashion. In this way, I’m like Voltaire and would die for Jessica Simpson’s right to slaughter Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” because art progresses with mistakes and the freedom to make them, good with the bad, bad with the good, equality with your neighbor and enemy alike and all that.

Adaptations are one thing. The Before Watchmen prequels are something else entirely because they’re not recreating Moore’s narrative in a parallel medium, but adding to Moore’s narrative in the same medium. Of course, they only add to the narrative if the reader allows it or enough readers allow it to justify the prequels entering the public perception of what Watchmen as a sequential art narrative entails, what constitutes its entirety. As an artist, I can understand how Moore feels threatened. It’s like Nickelback saying they want to add a few verses to “Stairway to Heaven,” but not as frightening. (That Nickelback thing might actually offend the gods in the volcano in my attempt to use hyperbole- I’m just trying to take the concept to its absurd conclusion, so forgive me.) Moore and fans also see the Before Watchmen series for what it is at its essence, a capitalist enterprise. Alan Moore is really mad, but the co-creator of Watchmen Dave Gibbons has given the project his blessing, which only complicates the validity of Moore’s assertion that DC Comics should not have pursued Before Watchmen.

What is Moore’s problem? Is it that he doesn’t like a comic book character being written by someone other than the creator? That would be absurd. Moore wrote Superman comics and he didn’t create Superman. Moore built his reputation on his run on Swamp Thing, which is a character created by Len Wein, the editor of the original Watchmen series and writer for the Ozymandias storyline of the Before Watchmen series. The greatest flaw of this argument lies in the original conception of Watchmen to be based on characters from Charlton Comics that Moore didn’t create, but also in the premise of Moore’s other acclaimed serieses League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marvelman, From Hell, and Lost GirlsLOEG being the guiltiest party by featuring nearly two hundred characters that Moore did not create. Alan Moore has taken broad strokes with character he didn’t create, such broad and extreme strokes as shooting them, paralyzing, and taking naked photographs of them with the intent of driving their father insane. Moore has demonstrated a fondness for sexualizing, often violently, characters he didn’t create as seen graphically in LOEG and Lost Girls. A somewhat simplistic reading of LOEG will see it as merely common sexual fantasies manifested through the actions of Mina Murray- her sexual liberation through sexual assault at the hands of Dracula, the Invisible Man, and many others, her eternal youth, her bisexuality, a lover who can change genders (Orlando), the affections of multiple monsters, free love, incest (Quartmainn’s reincarnations), and on and on. The text itself is a sexual act and Lost Girls? That book’s even dirtier than LOEG, so if Alan Moore can take such sexual liberties with beloved characters from children’s stories, why should he be so upset by a couple of prequels for one twelve-issue graphic novel?

Is Moore’s problem with the capitalist enterprise of milking a story past its expiration date for financial reward? Isn’t that what comic books are all about? Such a large component of comics is the recurrence of characters, which is distinctly not a Nietzschean eternal recurrence but rather a more broad exponentially eternal recurrence as evidenced by the ever-expanding continuity organism that thrives on disruptions like the New 52 or Ultimates. Also, I love What If and Elseworlds imprints. In the case of Moore, didn’t he just release the LOEG: Century and Nemo books to cash in on the previous success of LOEG? Look at how those books were sold, Century is sold as three skinny books 1910, 1969, and 2009 even though they should be sold as a single graphic novel. Nemo has been released in hardcover despite being a mere 56 pages- $14.95 for 56 pages? Seriously? On this point, I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed every bit of LOEG and regard the additional material as worthwhile, but its nowhere near as good as the original first two volumes of the series, which probably stand better independent of the Black Dossier, the Century books, and Nemo. Mary Poppins might be worth it though.

I haven’t read Before Watchmen as I don’t read single issues and am waiting for the trades to come out. I’ve heard good things from people who read them and bad things, mostly from people who haven’t read them. I’m excited by the creative teams that worked on them- Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Jae Lee, Brian Azzarello, et al. are some of the most talented people working in comics. Stuff like Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote the Nite Owl storyline of Before Watchmen, is one of my favorite Superman storylines and the current Wonder Woman is one of the best titles being published, written by Brian Azzarello, who wrote the Comedian storyline of Before Watchmen. I’ll wait to see the final product before I judge and I’ll be amused and impressed, but not swayed, by Alan Moore’s commitment to his creations, despite obvious contradictions in his behavior- same with Prince.

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This is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52. Please keep in mind that all honors are awarded based on their performances in the first collected volumes of their series. If you want me to weigh in on whether or not I approve of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, which begins in the second volume of Justice League, I’ll tell you that it’s okay with me because I know Superman’s going to find his way back to Lois Lane.  He loved Lana before he loved Lois and that worked out fine. The Kryptonian heart surely contains as many riddles as the human heart. I don’t blame Diana either because Steve Trevor has always seemed to me like what the porn industry calls a suitcase pimp. He’s a stripper’s boyfriend, a leech, an Andy Warhol Factory vampire. I thought the arranged marriage to Aquaman in Flashpoint was an interesting direction for her love life. I think Kara-El would also make an interesting mate for Diana. Before I start auctioning off rental space in Wonder Woman’s uterus, let’s get to the Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 2), which, in accordance with its title, is a continuation of yesterday’s Bests and Worsts of the New 52 (Part 1) which, in accordance with its title, discussed some of the bests and worsts of DC Comics’ New 52.

Best and Worst of the Superman Family of Titles

Best: Action Comics Sadly, none of the Superman titles approach the quality of stories like All Star Superman, Superman for All Seasons, Red Son, or Birthright. Still each of the titles in the Superman family offered entertaining fair. The new manifestations of some of the classic Superman relationships distinguish the New 52 Superman from his previous incantations. Obviously, there is Clark’s relationship with Lois. She’s very suspicious of him, a suspicion that is long overdue. Lois is a smart woman. Clark Kent is a sketchball with an obvious link to Superman. Finally, we have a Lois who suspects something. In Action Comics, Superman meets some of his classic villains for the ‘first’ time: Lex Luthor, Metallo, Brainiac. He also sees some old friends like Steel and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Grant Morrison seems a little greedy with the Superman mythology, making George Pérez’s complaint that Superman (which takes place 5 years after Action Comics) was difficult to write without the cooperation of Grant Morrison. The book itself is pretty straight comic book story-telling, unlike Morrison’s wilder stuff like The Filth or Flex Mentallo. Another relationship that we see start from the beginning is the relationship between Kal-El and his lovely cousin Kara in Supergirl. Supergirl is one of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed reading about her in the Superman/Batman and Supergirl titles prior to the reboot and I must admit that I prefer her in the skirt as opposed to the Power Girl-esque camel-toe-inducing outfit she has now. Her outfit looks classier in Supergirl than Superboy. She’s a great character. I look forward to seeing more of her in the New 52.

Worst: The premature death of Martha and Jonathan Kent. I don’t know who made the decision to have these two iconic Mary & Josephs die prior to Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, but that was a dumb move.  A lot of Superman’s renewed popularity comes from the success of Smallville, in which Clark’s Earth parents played a significant role. Many Superman fans suffered through Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and only survived because of the contributions of Eddie Jones and K Callan as the Kents.

Best and Worst of the Batman Family of Titles

Best: Batman. I really enjoyed most of the Batman books and the introduction of the Court of Owls as Gotham City’s spooky secret society. The overlap between books was good. I can only imagine the experience of reading Nightwing without knowing that Dick’s a Talon- a great tagline for your on-line dating site: Dick’s A Talon. I like a lot of the new villains introduced in the Batman books, but I like the Owls the best. Greg Capullo’s art is pretty sweet, though the rotating of the actual book is pretty hokey. Still I’m glad they’re experimenting. The most innovative art in the Batman family and possibly the whole New 52 is Batwoman. It’s a pity that J.H. Williams III didn’t continue to do the art after the first volume- no offense to the talented artists currently working on Batwoman, of course.

Worst: Catwoman. Catwoman was an okay book, but the others are much better. On a note unrelated to this honor, Catwoman and Batwoman are always dressing/undressing.

Best and Worst of the Green Lantern Family of Titles

Best: The origin stories of the Red Lanterns’ rages in Red Lanterns

Worst: The cheesy story at the end of Green Lantern Corps where John Stewart returns the GL he silenced with death to the GL’s family, only to have a few heart-warming moments with the GL’s mentally challenged younger brother. The depiction of the mentally challenged brother is insultingly cliché and surely offensive to mentally challenged Green Lantern readers everywhere. Sometimes Green Lantern stories amaze you with their social and political relevance and sometimes they seethe cheese like your grandmother’s knees.

Best and Worst of the Edge Family of Titles

Best: All Star Western. Telling the story of Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham in nineteenth century Gotham, All Star Western is a good mystery story. The art’s good, especially the covers. I wish DC had more titles that took place in the past. I’d really like to see some Elseworlds stories in the New 52. As a comic book historian, I like a little history in comics. It’s like wearing another gender’s corset.

Worst: Stormwatch I’m excited to see what Peter Milligan does with it. I really enjoyed his work on Red Lanterns and Justice League Dark

Best and Worst of the Dark Family of Titles

Best: I really, really, really like the three cancelled series from The Dark family of titles: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Resurrection Man, and I, Vampire. I feel certain that Resurrection Man, Frankenstein, and the other members of S.H.A.D.E. can survive without their own monthly title, but I was really looking forward to the development of the I, Vampire  plot. It’s cancellation is a bummer.

Worst: I haven’t read Demon Knights, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Jason Blood/Etrigan. It’s unfair to assign Demon Knights as the worst, but the other Dark titles are all so solid that I can’t bear to call them the worst.

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